One of the most incredible aspects of my business school experience to date has been the incredible people I’ve met – from freshly minted MBAs embarking on a new career path to seasoned execs, corporate crushers to free-spirited entrepreneurs. The amount I’ve learned from classmates and Booth alums has been just as invaluable as the finance and marketing skills I’ve learned from my professors.
This week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Chicago entrepreneur, Jennifer Alexander (Booth ’08… and no, we’re not related ;-P). After working in consulting for a year out of business school, Jennifer decided she needed to connect with her work on a deeper level to feel fulfilled. She quit her job and has since founded several businesses in the area of health and wellness. She is now turning her attention to coffee – she and her husband, Carlos, are the founders and owners of Chapin Coffee. The proceeds from each bag of fair-trade certified, organically grown coffee sold by the company fund three meals for children in Guatemala!
Jennifer served as another reminder to me of the power of believing in yourself and pursuing your passion. What stuck with me from our conversation was the following advice (all you Type-A, get-it-done-yesterday types, take heed!) – as an entrepreneur, you are growing garden. Each conversation you have, each relationship you ignite, is a seed sown. And while we often want that seed to bear fruit immediately, that is not how nature works, nor is it how business works (well, most of the time). Having a vision of the final product in your mind’s eye is important, but so is learning to find peace with the fact that that first that seed will turn into a little sprout. Then it will grow. Then it will bud… and THEN it will flower. Learning how to tend to that seed along the way is part of the entrepreneur’s journey – and I would argue part of the athlete’s journey! The first step? Have a vision and believe. Then comes the need for determination to chip away toward that end result. It’s never too soon to sew that seed and let your garden grow!